A museum adjacent to the home hosts a permanent exhibit titled, “Preserv’d Us A Nation: The War of 1812 and the People of Chesapeake Bay,” telling the tale of how area residents defended themselves during the war. Displayed here are fragments of the original flag. Yet the biggest museum draw may be its street-facing exterior wall, a full-sized glass replica of Pickersgill’s Star-Spangled Banner.
Postscript to the story: Francis Scott Key’s friend, Dr. William Beanes, was released by the British shortly after the Battle of Baltimore.
The War of 1812 ended in a draw with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on Dec. 24, 1814. Because of the day’s slow communications, Gen. Andrew Jackson defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans two weeks later. He was unaware that a peace treaty had been signed. (However, since the treaty had not yet been ratified by the United States government, the Battle of New Orleans was technically fought during the war.)
Mary Pickersgill’s flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” was given to Col. Armistead after he relinquished his command at Fort McHenry. Pieces of the flag were snipped off and given away by the Armistead family as souvenirs, an acceptable 19th century custom. In 1907, the flag, by then cut down to 30 feet by 34 feet, was given by Armistead’s descendants to the Smithsonian Institution. It is currently displayed at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Congress proclaimed “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem in 1931.
If you go:
Fort McHenry National Monument is open year-round daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year‘s Day. Hours: summer (May 25 to Sept. 2): 9-6; rest of year: 8-5; the last video presentation begins an hour before closing. Admission: $7 ages 16 and older, free under age 16. Park ranger programs, strongly recommended, are offered hourly from 10-4 in summer and three times a day the rest of the year. Living history re-enactments take place continuously 11-4 on summer weekends.
Note: Defenders’ Day, the annual commemoration of the Battle of Baltimore, will be held Sept. 13-15, 2013.
Information: Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, 2400 East Fort Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230-5393, (410) 962-4290 www.nps.gov/fomc
The museum of the Maryland Historical Society Museum is open Wednesday-Saturday from 10-5, Sunday from 12-5, closed Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Year‘s Day. Admission: $9 adults; $7 seniors; $6 students with ID and ages 3-18; free under age 3; and free for all ages on the first Thursday of each month. Information: Maryland Historical Society, 201 West Monument St., Baltimore, MD 21201, (410) 685-3750 www.mdhs.org
The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10-4, with last tour starting at 3:15; closed Thanksgiving, Dec. 24, Christmas, New Year‘s Eve and New Year‘s Day. Admission: $8 adults, $7 seniors and military, $6 students, free under age 5. Information: The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, 844 East Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21202, (410) 837-1793 www.flaghouse.org
Michael Schuman graduated cum laude from Syracuse University in 1975 and received a MFA in professional writing in 1977 from the University of Southern California. He lives with his family in New England and can be reached at email@example.com .
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